In my early twenties, I was given the responsibility of caring for a dog in the most complete way I’d ever had before. The dog was mine to care for in every possible sense: feed, water, walk, vet visits, you name it. At this point, I’d already started to experiment with a vegetarian diet; I usually had a vegetarian lunch, but certainly not every day.
As time went on, the balance shifted, and I had more vegetarian meals than not. It was easy to give up ground beef – in my opinion, it was pretty hard to find quality ground beef that didn’t ooze grease. At some point, I got gotten to the point where I was only eating fish, which I referred to as my, ‘no legs’ policy, as in, “If you had legs, then you could have run away before I ate you.” Then I started feeding my friend’s fish for him when he wasn’t around, and one day, I was pretty sure his fish were giving me this, “You’re an asshole,” sort of look, and I stopped eating fish.
By now, I knew there was the option to move over to a vegan lifestyle, but how? How on earth did a lazy fool like myself avoid dairy? Sure, it was easy to avoid things like ice cream, but not having much in the way of culinary intelligence, I didn’t really know how one went about it.
I started reading labels; stuff had dairy hidden in it. “Bastards!” I muttered in a crowded grocery store while I read a label to myself. Who knew muffins had dairy in them? Not me, apparently; I’d never really thought about it. And those Pepperidge Farms goldfish shaped pretzels? Forget it. My favorite of all hidden dairy items was the non-dairy creamer that had whey in it. How the hell did they get away with that nonsense? The name of the product had ‘non-dairy’ in it, yet the ingredients clearly listed a dairy product. I was baffled, and only my “Little Miss Muffett” skills had saved me. This wasn’t going to be easy.
A few years later, and it’s automatic. My dogs don’t live in fear when I’m hungry and I’ve learned you can order just about anything off the Taco Bell menu and ask them to substitute beans and they will – they even have a ‘substitute’ button! (Taco Bell doesn’t fuck around – I recommend the Fire Roasted Peppers sauce – not the Fire Sauce.) Even though it’s overpriced and owned by a man I don’t care for on a personal level, Whole Foods is a revelation – you can get vegan products there that nobody else has. The vegan cheese that melts is pretty amazing, and suddenly, pizza is back in my life in a way I never dreamed possible. I can’t imagine it’s ever been as easy to be vegan as it is now.
The best part about being vegan is the complete and total lack of guilt and less damage to your body. Your food has no cholesterol in it. You never have to struggle with decisions like veal. The stuff they feed cows these days is… well, if you’re learning from me that cows don’t just graze on grass all day, you might want to look into what you’re eating a bit more closely. But for the most part, everything you’ve heard about people being nice to farm animals is bull shit. Those commercials with the happy cows? Bullshit. Cows (and pigs, for that matter) don’t live on farms anymore, they live in factories. It’s cruel and who wants to eat that? Not me; you do what you want, I won’t throw paint on you (unless you ask), but think about it – and the more you think about it, the harder it will be to order that next hamburger.